Leaving London? Move east, not west

    19 October 2020

    Which Londoner hasn’t browsed a property portal over the last few months and eyed up a few dream houses? Cramped city living has lost much of its appeal, particularly given that this virus isn’t going away any time soon.

    Top of most buyers’ lists are leafy Surrey, Hampshire, Brighton or the wilds of Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds. All of which are lovely, by the way. But they’re also in high demand and therefore expensive.

    If you don’t have £1.5 million to hand or don’t want to swap one shoe box for another, then looking east not west is by far the best option. Here’s where to search:

    Coastal boltholes

    Maldon, Essex

    If a seaside retreat appeals and you have been looking in Brighton or Whitstable, then why not look east? Prices are 25 to 40 per cent lower here. When I say east, I don’t mean Aldeburgh: the beach is stony and it’s a bit too close to Sizewell and its nuclear power station for my liking. Nor do I mean Southwold, which is expensive and touristy, or Burnham Market which is just a bit too far from the capital. Instead, you would do well to look around Woodbridge to the east of Ipswich. It has its own train station that will get you into London in just under 1 hour 40 minutes. And in Alderton for £470,000 you could have this 4-bedroom detached house.

    Colchester is a failsafe choice, bedecked with its own castle and trains into London that take 1 hour 4 minutes. The surrounding towns and villages have much to offer coast lovers – from waterside houses in Wivenhoe to historic, family-friendly Maldon – famed for its sea salt. If schooling needs to be factored into your decision then Colchester and Chelmsford are home to some of the best state secondary schools in the country.

    Or why not try my personal favourite, Frinton-on-Sea with its sandy beaches, fabulous beach huts and town with every amenity you’d ever need? There’s not much for sale in the Avenues for less than a million right now but on one of the “college roads” inside the gates, for the price of a London suburban semi-detached you could have a five-bedroom detached house that’s ready to move into. Alternatively, if it’s sea air you’re after, then this flat is just five minutes walk from the sea. At £575k it’s good value for the space you’ll gain.

    Frinton-on-sea, Essex

    Or just up the coast in the next town is Walton on the Naze which is 40 per cent less expensive than the resorts on the south coast. There’s a quirky converted chapel for sale at a very reasonable £360,000 and the town is just one stop along the line from Frinton.

    Countryside idylls

    If Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds were on your radar, why not look at Diss in Norfolk? The train journey is only 1hr 35 into London’s Liverpool Street. You’ll find a range of properties for sale and the average prices are 40 per cent lower than out west.

    At the top end of the market, how about a six-bedroom detached manor house for £950,000. Or snap up a six-bedroom farmhouse and nearly an acre of land thrown in for good measure. All for £745,000. Just outside Diss in Shelfanger there’s a Grade II listed thatched cottage currently on the market for £375,000. Unless you’d prefer a studio flat in Holloway, of course.

    Diss Mere in Norfolk

    If you aspire to live in Wallingford or Henley but balk at the £750k average price, you may want to go north instead. Just outside Northampton to Flore which is 4 ½ miles from Long Buckby train station that will get you into London in 1 hour 25 minutes. For £600k, here’s a rather tasty project to get stuck into…

    Of course I have just scratched the surface. You could play it safe and follow the herd to the Home Counties or West Country. But if you’re prepared to do your research, take a few road or rail trips to find your personal idyll you’ll get a lot more value for your money.